“I don’t like to be labeled” is a phrase many of us have said at one point or another. While we may not like labels to be applied to us, for the most part, we all use labels to make associations or assumptions frequently in our lives, whether intentionally or just informally. Labels can absolutely be used to stigmatize or generalize an individual or a population, but it is all in the intention and usage of the word or phrase.
When looking at any culture or group, the language used to communicate generalized and universally-understood ideas can be unique when going from group to group. Certain words can be used to infer meaning only known to members of a group, so that other people outside of the group will not be aware of the discussion being had. In earlier decades, the LGBT community used words and phrases to identify one another in such a way that those not a part of the community would not be able to understand.
As our community has developed and expanded, so too has our vocabulary and what a dictionary we have made for ourselves. Sure many of these terms are extremely broad and overgeneralize, but they are fun and creative uses of language that we have adopted into our culture over time. Below is a far from exhaustive list of some of the terms the LGBT community has adopted over the years starting with more basic generally accepted terms and going deeper into some more colorful and creative terms that we have coined to identify subgroups within our diverse community.
Lesbian — A female individual who has a sexual and emotional desire for those of the same sex. One of the oldest and most common words used for female homosexuals.
* The word is derived from the Greek Isle of Lesbos, home to the ancient Greek lesbian poet Sappho.
Gay — A male individual who has a sexual and emotional desire for those of the same sex. One of the oldest and most common words for male homosexuals.
* In 16th century England, gay was used to refer to a male actor in a female costume.
Bisexual — An individual who identifies as being attracted sexually and emotionally to both men and women. The individual does not necessarily have to be attracted equally to both sexes.
Transgender — An individual whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth. Transgender is not a sexual orientation, individuals who identify as transgender could have any possible sexual orientation.
* To understand the concept of transgender, one must be able to differentiate between biological sex and gender identity.
Bear — A sub-group of gay men that are typically hairier and stouter than other men.
* There are many variations of bears. Younger bears are referred to as cubs, while a skinny bear is referred to as an otter.
Drag King — A woman who, generally for public entertainment, dresses in men’s clothes and adopts a stereotypically masculine demeanor while on stage. Drag kings typically dance and lip sync to songs like their queen counterparts.
Drag Queen — A man who, generally for public entertainment, dresses in women’s clothes and adopts stereotypical feminine attributes while on stage. Most drag queens dance and lip sync to songs.
*According to Noxeema Jackson in “To Wong Foo,”When a straight man puts on a dress and gets his sexual kicks, he is a transvestite. When a man is a woman trapped in a man’s body and has a little operation he is a transsexual. When a gay man has way too much fashion sense for one gender he is a drag queen.”
Gender Queer — A newer classification; gender queer individuals play with the norms of gender roles and even outright reject the concept of gender completely.
* There are gender neutral terms that can be used to replace commonly used gender specific pronouns. For example, Ze can be used to replace both “he” and “she” while Zir to replace the possessive “his” and “her”. Also the word “they” can be used to express both he or she.
Lipstick Lesbian — A lesbian who prefers to dress and wear make-up in a way that is conventionally more feminine than other lesbians.
* The term chapstick lesbian was popularized after an episode of the TV show “Ellen” in the 1990s to describe a lesbian that is a little more gender neutral than a lipstick lesbian. When asked by her parents if she was a lipstick lesbian, Ellen replied that she was more of a chapstick lesbian.
Pansexual — An individual who is attracted to people regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
* Some people prefer the word pansexual as opposed to bisexual as “bi” refers to people liking two sexes (male and female) and does not include the wider array of sexual orientations and gender identities.
Twink — Used to describe an attractive boyish male. Typically twinks are younger, but can also just appear younger. Twinks are typically slender and lightly hairy to hairless.
* More muscular men who meet the description of a twink are referred to as twunks (twink + hunk).
Sexual Terminology & Fetishes
B&D — Bondage and discipline. Sexual excitement related to binding or being bound by handcuffs, leather, rope, etc. A milder form of S & M which involves one partner being at least constrained.
Bareback — The practice of having anal sex without using a barrier method such as a condom.
Bottom — The partner during sex who prefers to be the recipient of pleasure or penetration and takes on the more passive sexual role. Alternatively referred to as a catcher since they are on the receiving end.
Dom — Dominant. Someone who enjoys dominating another person, typically used in a BD/SM scenario. Frequently used interchangeably with top, but not necessarily an accurate substitution
Pillow Queen — Typically, a lesbian who likes to be on the receiving end of pleasure during sex and is less focused on reciprocation. Stone Butch, meet your match!
S&M — Sadism and masochism. The sadist derives their pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation while the masochist enjoys having pain inflicted upon them or being humiliated. S&M partners set and define mutually agreed upon limits.
Stone Butch — A lesbian who gets pleasure from being on the giving end of sex and is not interested in receiving pleasure from their partner during sex.
Sub — Submissive. The opposite of dominant, a person that sexually submits or is passive to their partner. Typically used in a BD/SM scenario.
Top — The partner during sex who prefers to be the giver of pleasure or penetration and takes on the more active sexual role. Alternatively referred to as a pitcher since they are on the giving end.
Boi — For gay men, a boi is a gay man who is boyish or young in appearance or identity. For lesbians, a boi is a woman who is biologically female, but has a boyish appearance or presentation.
Breeders — A slang term used for heterosexual individuals, typically those who have children or glorify the idea of having a family.
Chasers — Most frequently used in the bear community; chasers are typically outsiders who are attracted to and admire bears. Chasers do not necessarily have to be bears themselves.
* The term can be used with other subgroups besides bears.
Chicken — A gay or lesbian youth, typically inexperienced or new to the community.
Chicken Hawk — An older gay or lesbian individual who is attracted to and seeks out significantly younger partners.
Fag Hag — A straight (typically) woman who prefers the social company of gay men.
* An alternative term for a fag hag is a fruit fly. While the term sounds a little less crass than fag hag, it still isn’t the most appealing imagery.
Fag Stag — A straight male who hangs out with and enjoys the company of gay men.
Gayby — An infant being raised by parents who identify as lesbian or gay.
Hasbian — An individual who identified as a lesbian, but now exclusively dates men.
LUG — Lesbian Until Graduation. Term used to describe a woman who identifies as a lesbian during her high school or college years, but ultimately marries a man.
Winkte — Term used among the Lakota people to distinguish those who are “twin spirits,” typically indicating that they are gay, lesbian or identify as both genders.
* The winkte are not marginalized in Lakota culture, but rather are treated as spiritual leaders or with reverence.
Yestergay — An individual who identified as gay, but now exclusively dates women. : :
Images: Rosendo Brown